The character is badly concussed, unable to stand straight, with nausea, but worst of all, unable to think straight - and he has a critical knowledge / mental skill, urgently needed at the moment. He is in prison (with prison crew and inmates fully cooperating), and getting him to full (or at least reasonable) mental capacity as soon as possible.

The character is barely conscious, unable to stand independently, can't form coherent sentences (aphasia?), and some minor hidden hemorrhaging. Preferably, the solution is near instantaneous, but up to a week of time would still be reasonable if faster ones don't exist. The solution CAN be harmful in the long-term, even lethal - matter of health or life of this one person against the fate of the whole planet.

The inmates probably have some illegal drugs; what kinds would help the recovery? What would the long-term consequences of this "treatment" be?

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    $\begingroup$ This is common writers trope. To be honest, I think that any idea will do the trick. That is why I vote to close as "idea generating question" $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2015 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ How quickly is quickly, and how badly is the patient injured? Someone unconscious isn't necessarily going to wake up from giving them speed. There's also potential brain damage, cerebral hemorrhaging, pressure, etc. If the major problem is pressure induced, installing a shunt into the skull might help, for instance... $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2015 at 9:58
  • $\begingroup$ @IsaacKotlicky: As quickly as possible, under ten seconds is best, but if it can't be done any faster, a week it is. The patient is conscious, but barely - can't stand on his own, can't form a coherent sentence, though he understands what is being said (known only through omniscient narrator's eyes). He does have a minor brain hemorrhaging which people don't know about, and which is a ticking death clock for him. Nevertheless, his later death is an affordable loss providing he gives the necessary information before that. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Mar 12, 2015 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ What is the tech level? Do they have any drugs or treatments we have not yet developed? $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Mar 12, 2015 at 16:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The usual dumb movie idea is that a second blow to the head reverses the effects of the first one. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Mar 13, 2015 at 18:28

2 Answers 2


There are a few options that can work as anti-seizure medication and anti-migraine medication can help overcome the immediate effects...none of them are permanent solutions though. The key thing is you want to clear up the headache and nausea to allow for some cognitive thought.

One key thing to note that the brain can be considered a muscle in this sense...an injured muscle hurts to use and the best treatment is...well, not to use it. You might be able to get some short term cognitive thought, but the longer this person attempts to put together cohesive thought the worse they are going to be. Getting them to do their thinking in short bursts before returning to rest is the best choice. Optical functions, especially in regards to smartphones or computer screens, will cause pain and dizziness pretty quickly...if they need to use a computer, best to have another doing the typing and reading off the screen for them.

I should note that I really don't recommend any of this, it's somewhat theory, and long term effects are completely ignored, and probably does nothing beyond addressing some of the immediate symptoms. Rest and time is truly the best answer...Most medical sites won't list a lot of this because it opens them up to liability by giving a short term solution that causes long term issues instead.

First...avoid anything that ultimately acts as a blood thinner, including asprin and some other headache medication. Thinning the blood is very dangerous in concussion cases. Second, in most head injury treatments, drugs are horribly frown upon...increasing blood pressure or thinning blood is an absolute no no and needs to be avoided at all costs.

  • Amitriptyline - This is an anti-depressant that one of your inmates can be on. It resolves the nausea and dizziness and provides some relief as far as the head ache would go. When combined with Innopran, it can be used to treat migraines. There's a few other anti-depressants that fit into the same family that may be helpful here, but no guarantees

  • Paracetamol - More well known as the acetaminophen family...ya, I'm recommending taking 2 Tylenol. This will help with pain and it won't really make the concussion worse...not sure if it helps nausea and dizziness much. Unfortunately, the numbed pain isn't a good thing...pain tells you when you are further injuring yourself and a owner of a numbed brain can take on activities that damage itself further.

  • Marijuana - Not sure if the state your character is left in is all too helpful, but this does work to control the nausea and headache effects for a couple hours before they need to light up again.

  • Gabapentin - This is a anti-seizure medication that can also be used to treat nerve pain. It'll address the dizziness, the headache, and nausea...but it can cause extreme drowsiness which might be counter-intuitive to your situation.

  • Topiramate - This is an anti-epilepsy drug that will kill the headache and dizziness/nausea. Worst side effect here is weightloss ;)

  • Carbamazepine - similiar to above...anti-epilepsy medications seem to have the best chance have having some effect here.

  • dextroamphetamine - hesitate to put this one here...but this is a potent nervous system stimulant that is now prescribed to ADHD peeps. It was used back in WWII and given to soldiers to fight the effects of fatigue and nausea. It may help provide some short term cognitive functions, but this might be exceedingly harmful in the long run as it may interfere with brains ability to heal.

I'll end with a disclaimer since I really don't want to be sued. None of this is recommended and is only intended for story use. Concussions are serious, don't play around with the future of your brain unless you are planning on dying within a week.

Edit : Some illicits:

MDMA (also known as E or ecstasy) would probably have a short term gain allowing the person here to collect some thoughts and function. Admittedly they'll be high and potentially want to touch anything that looks soft, but the direct symptoms of the concussion should be addressed. It's not that the concussion isn't there, the brain is overwhelmed and just too high to figure it out how damaged it is. This isn't treatment at all and the long term effects are probably harshly negative, but short term it'll leave the person functioning. It'd take around 30 minutes after taking for the effects to kick in and probably put the person onto high / low waves (high they'll have no clue they're injured, lows will let them remember how much pain they are in) for a good 6 to 12 hours.

Cocaine. Fits into above category, but snorting blow will put a numbing agent directly in the brain. Without question, the long term effects here are exceedingly dangerous, but short term might give the person some capacity of cognitive thought. It's much more instantaneous, but I don't think the effects would last much past an hour.

Once again, in no way would I ever recommend the two options above...call these musings at best.


I'm not an expert on this, so I've gotten information form those who are. From the Mayo Clinic:

Rest is the most appropriate way to allow your brain to recover from a concussion. Your doctor will recommend that you physically and mentally rest to recover from a concussion.

Rest is the best medicine here. Concussions are caused by the brain being jolted or otherwise slamming into the skull wall. It simply comes down to trying to accelerate the body's natural healing. Rest, obviously, is the best way to get a body to concentrate more on healing and less on... doing other things. Giving the inmate in question plenty of nutritious foods and rest from activities ranging from moderate to severe intensity will greatly expedite recovery.

Just like when you hurt yourself in your limbs and you avoid using that, so too must you rest your mind to let it heal.

Concussions come in a few different grades; 1, 2, and 3. Grades 1 and 2 are not too bad. The affects of being concussed are usually overcome in 15 minutes or so for grade 1 concussions. Grade 2 concussions last longer. Grade 3 concussions require going to a hospital for professional help. Grade 3 concussions carry a severe risk of brain damage. (You should get trained medical help if you suspect you've suffered a concussion!) Generally, most concussions can be healed within 1 week of injury, assuming no permanent brain damage.

It sounds like your inmate has a grade 2 or 3 concussion. Tylenol or other headache-reducing medicine will be helpful. Avoid Ibuprofen-based painkillers. This is because (1) the exact mechanism ibuprofen uses is unknown, and may alter something important to you brain healing, (2) because one of the side effects of ibuprofen is confusion, and (3) ibuprofen's known side effects may not contribute to the healing needed (such as the risk of hypertension). The second reason is so that you never have to ask the question: is this person confused because of the concussion/brain damage, or the ibuprofen?

I'm afraid I am not super familiar with anti-inflammatory effects of illegal drugs, so I cannot say if any of those would help. Of course, anti-inflammatory drugs merely treat a symptom, not the actual cause. Cannabis may help the person to "rest" more effectively, but the actual benefits are highly debatable. Besides the lethargy associated with a cannabis high, it has been shown to increase blood flow in the brain, which may or may not help.

  • $\begingroup$ I added the fact edited out from the question: that permanent harm or even death as result after a short period of consciousness (maybe minutes) is considered an acceptable price. While "rest" would be best for permanent healing with least risk and least lasting damage, it's probably far from fastest. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Mar 14, 2015 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. There is a reason why there are no more treatments for concussions. We don't have any to magically undo a bruise, and much less for a bruise on your brain. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Mar 14, 2015 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ But there are treatments that allow you to use the injured limb, ignoring the injury. Morphine for example. Sure they are restricted - usually to military, or illegal, and they may cause harm to your limb in the long run, but when the choice is between running on a fractured leg or staying in the area which the artillery is just about to turn into inferno, the choice is clear. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Mar 15, 2015 at 22:24

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